What is Kidney stone? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, etc.

In the year 2004, a kidney stone of the size of a mouse was removed from a man. The International Museum of surgical science in Chicago houses a collection of such unique sized kidney stones that are displayed in glass jars. In Hungary in the year 2009, another gigantic kidney stone was removed from a man, it weighs 2.5 pounds.

Kidney stones are not something that has been found a few decades before; it dates back more than 5000 years. The Mesopotamian medical text highlights the practices of the physician who didn’t use the knife to remove the stones but other methods which were deadly and very painful. In ancient Greece and India kidney stones removal process was practised as far as 7th century BCE.

Most of the ancient surgeons were self-taught and their practices were very dangerous that involves inserting a terrifying cutting instrument into the bladder, cutting up the stones and extracting the pieces with the instrument and at times the physician practice to remove it with the fingers in the late 17th century. In the year 1698, it was recorded that 25 out of 60 patients died in the surgery process and later the physician was banned from carrying with further proceedings.

Did you know? 90% of the kidney stones can get passed through urination. Although getting it out can be painful, but once you can get the stone to pass it can relieve you of all further complications. If you’re able to collect the stone, bring it to the doctor where the stone can be analyzed and further examined to reveal the kind of components present in the kidney stone and potentially point to a treatment or prevention tactics; as there is no such thing that once the kidney stones are removed it won’t form again. To know and learn more about kidney stone keep your ‘reading-glasses-on’.

What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones (nephrolithiasis, renal lithiasis) are hard deposits that are formed in the kidney over some time due to several reasons. These deposits are made up of salts and minerals that can affect parts of the urinary tract starting from the kidneys to the bladder. One of the prime reason for stone formation is the concentration of urine which leads to the minerals to crystallize and ultimately stick together to form stones.

Kidney stones can cause no harm to the body if there are timely diagnosed and removed from the body. No kidney stones are similar, depending on the size and situation, the doctor may tell the patient to drink lots and lots of water to pass the kidney stone or prescribe certain medication that might help to break free the stones from the system. If in any situation the stones get in the urinary tract it can lead to urine infection or arise complications; in such conditions, surgery may be required.

It is a myth that calcium is responsible to create kidney stones. It’s true that calcium is part of some common kind of kidney stones but that doesn’t mean that you would stop the intake of calcium amount in your diet. In fact, the real thing is a calcium-deficient diet can increase a person chance of developing a kidney stone. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a daily intake of two to three servings of calcium-rich food can lower oxalate absorption and helps to keep calcium oxalate stones away.

Causes of kidney stones formation

There is no definite cause that marks the development of kidney stones rather there are several factors all together that increases the risk of kidney stone formation. Not drinking enough water can contribute to the formation of stones as urine contains more crystal-forming substance like uric acid, oxalate, and calcium. At times the urine lacks substances that stop crystals from sticking together, thus creating an ideal condition for the kidney stones to develop.

Certain medical conditions can cause kidney stones-

  • Hypercalciuria (presence of high calcium content in the urine)-this is a kind of inherited condition where too much calcium is absorbed from the food consumed and released to the urine where it can form as calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate kidney stones.
  • Gout-this condition results in the increase in uric acid in the blood and urine (can result in uric acid kidney stones)
  • Chronic diseases-Diabetes and high blood pressure patients are also known to carry high risk and might develop kidney stones.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease-people suffering from inflammatory bowel disease are much more prone to develop stones
  • Medications-Antacids that contain calcium, protease inhibitor indinavir (a drug that is used to cure HIV) can increase the risk of kidney stone formation
  • Dietary factors-excessive sugar consumption, vitamin D supplement, oxalate-containing food such as spinach, nut, peanut, tea and beetroot or a low level of calcium content diet can result in the increase of the oxalate and also disrupt the calcium-oxalate balance.
  • Hyperoxaluria-it is a rare inherited condition where elevated levels of oxalate concentration increase the chances of stone formation.

Researchers suggest that women in their 50s are more likely to develop kidney stones than men and a person who has suffered kidney stones earlier is likely to develop another kidney stone in future.

Types of kidney stones

There are mainly four types of kidney stones-

  • Calcium stones-the most common type of kidney stones is the calcium stones known as calcium oxalate. Taking a high dose of vitamin D, dietary factors, various metabolic disorders, and intestinal bypass surgery can increase the concentration of calcium in the urine. Such stones may also occur in the form of calcium phosphate and is common in metabolic conditions like renal tubular acidosis.
  • Uric acid stones-this type of kidney stones are formed when people don’t drink enough water or any other fluids or anyone who lose too much of fluid from the body; Uric acid stones can also form in people who eats a high protein diet. At times genetic factors can also increase the risk of such stone formation.
  • Struvite stones-urinary tract infection can lead to struvite stones. Unlike many other types of stones, this kind of kidney stones develops very quickly and become quite large. Struvite stones most of the times show negligence symptoms or very less warning
  • Cystine stone-mainly arises due to hereditary disorder in which the kidney excretes too much of a specific amino acid (cystinuria)

What are the symptoms of kidney stones?

Kidney stones may be present in the body but will not show any kind of symptom unless the stones start to move in the kidney or pass into the ureter (the tube that connects the kidney and bladder). Some of the signs and symptoms of kidney stones are-

  • Presence of red, brown, or pink urine
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Urge to urinate often
  • Pain in the lower abdomen and groin
  • Intense pain below the ribs or side and back
  • Experiencing pain while urinating
  • Fever and chills if there is the presence of urine
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Urinating more than normal quantity

The pain caused may differ from person to person depending on the intensity and location of the stones in the kidney.

In which stage should a person see the doctor?

If there is any of the signs and symptoms (mentioned above) in your body than you must see the doctor at the earliest. Visit the doctor if-

  • The intensity of the pain increases and causes difficulty in sitting or find a comfortable position to rest
  • Presence of blood in the urine
  • Suffering from fever and chills
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Facing problem while passing urine accompanied by pain

Diagnosis and treatment of kidney stones

If the doctor suspects your symptoms to be that of kidney stones than certain test will be conducted to be sure about your condition. Types of test that are prescribed are-

Blood testing-blood test helps to reveal the presence of too much of uric acid or calcium content present in the blood. This test helps to monitor the condition of the kidney and at times other medical condition might get reveal as well.

  • Imaging-the best part of this test is that it helps to witness and locate the kidney stones that may be or is present in the urinary tract of the patient. Imaging can include simple X-rays imagining or high-speed energy computerized tomography (also known as CT) that may reveal the presence of even tiny kidney stones, which might get skipped in a normal X-rays report.
  • Urine testing-Urine samples are collected to test the presence of stone-forming minerals. This test might require the patient to provide with urine samples of two consecutive days.
  • Analysis of passing stone (if any)-in the consultation procedure, basic techniques will be suggested to help pass a kidney stone like increase the liquid content in the body. If a kidney stone gets passed the doctor suggests collecting the stone for further analysis. The doctor will use this information to further determine the causes of the kidney stone formation and to suggest ways to prevent it.

Treatments for kidney stones are applied based on the size of the kidney stones and the cause/causes-

If there are small stones than the patient won’t require much medical treatment as the possibility of passing the stone is high in such cases. The doctor may suggest the patient to-

  • Drink lots and lots of water or any other fluid- minimum 1.0 to 2.9 litres of fluid helps to flush out the urine out of the body in a proper manner. You can increase the intake proportion if the doctor suggests.
  • Pain relievers-certain amount of discomfort is associated with passing a stone, to overcome the pain of discomfort the doctor may suggest certain pain relievers like ibuprofen, naproxen sodium or acetaminophen
  • Medical therapy-medications known as alpha-blocker help to relax the muscles in the ureter helping the patient to pass the kidney stone fast and with less pain.

Large stones may require some other kinds of treatments like-

  • Use of sound waves to break the stones
  • Application of surgery to remove very large stones in the kidney
  • Usage of a scope to remove the kidney stones
  • Parathyroid gland surgery

Precautions

Changes in the medication and lifestyle can lower the chances of developing kidney stones-

  • Try to drink water as much as possible (at least 2.5 litres)
  • Opt for a diet that is low in animal protein
  • Moderate the intake of salt quantity
  • Add a few oxalate-rich foods to your diet
  • Don’t be dependent on calcium supplements rather increase the calcium-rich food intake

FAQs

Que1. What are the first signs of kidney stones?

Ans- If you’re experiencing pain in the back, belly, presence of cloudy urine, blood in the urine, vomiting or nausea can indicate the presence of stones on the kidney

Que2.Is cranberry juice good for kidney stones?

Ans- Not really, cranberry juice can help to fight urinary tract infection but can increase the risk of kidney stones development as it is very high in oxalate.

Que3. What is kidney stone pain like?

Ans- Kidney stone pain can start as a dull ache but can increase with time

Que4. Can stress cause kidney stones?

Ans- Yes, it can indirectly lead to kidney stone formation

Que5. What will happen if kidney stones are removed?

Ans- Kidney stones are not known to be life-threatening but if delayed removal it can lead to kidney and urinary infection

Que6. Can a kidney stone get stuck in the pee-hole?

Ans- Yes, if the stone is big enough it can get stuck in the pee-hole

Que7. Can kidney stones cause UTI?

Ans- Yes, kidney stones can lead to UTIs due to blockage in the prostate gland

Que8.What dissolves kidney stone fast?

Ans- Apple cider vinegar is known to help dissolve kidney stone fast, it can also help to ease the pain caused by kidney stones.

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